January 17, 2018

Simple foodies: Why minimalism is making a comeback

Students taking culinary courses frequently challenge themselves to make complex dishes. There’s certainly a lot to be said for the pride and satisfaction that comes from mastering classic items like beef bourguignon or coq au vin. However, great food doesn’t have to require tricky techniques or unusual ingredients.

Today, many home cooks and chefs alike are embracing the power of simplicity. Minimalism has become the focus of kitchens in dining hubs like the Austin culinary arts scene and across the country. Many food enthusiasts have realized that with fresh ingredients and creative flavor combinations on the menu, there’s no need to overcomplicate a recipe.

When simpler is better

“The movement toward minimalist cooking makes great food accessible to more people.”

The movement toward minimalist cooking is about reducing costs and waste while making great food accessible to more people. Taste reported that many aspects of American culture have prioritized cutting back and avoiding excess, including everything from smaller living spaces to starker decor in establishments. New York University food studies professor Amy Bentley said the shift in culinary preferences was the latest phase in an ongoing cycle.

“It’s sort of like a pendulum: Food can get really fussy, and then it gets dialed back and streamlined, sort of like fashion and architecture,” Bentley said. “There always has to be something new for the consumer.”

One of the clearest signs of the shift toward minimalism has been the meal kit services that emerged in recent years, making it easier for busy people to prepare fresh food while following recipes from professionals. According to the Washington Post, this industry, which provides subscribers with the ingredients and directions required to prepare a variety of dishes, has grown to be worth billions. This success has been largely because people appreciate having a convenient, easy way to discover new recipes without the need to go grocery shopping.

Creative ways to go back to the basics

A major advantage of recipes that require just a few ingredients and basic techniques is that almost anyone can make them. Publications and blogs have set out to show home cooks that they can make great dishes without spending days on preparation.

Bon Appetit’s website Basically, which debuted in 2017, is devoted to straightforward lessons and tips for making everyday dishes. For instance, one article explained that when marinating a piece of meat, allowing more than a day can have negative results for its texture. A marinade never penetrates to the center of the meat even with a long wait, and in many cases 15 or 20 minutes may be long enough to get benefit of added flavor.

Minimalist Baker is a blog focused on recipes that call for either under half an hour of prep time, fewer than 10 ingredients or only one bowl. A lentil soup involves preparing vegetable broth, garlic, shallots, carrots, celery, potatoes and greens in a single pot and takes just over 30 minutes. The directions for vegan dark chocolate bars require only five ingredients but produce enough dessert to serve 12 people.

With fresh, tasty ingredients, there's no need to make your dishes overly complex.With fresh, tasty ingredients, there’s no need to make your dishes overly complex.

How restaurants are making the most of minimalism

Simpler recipes make it possible for even cooking newbies to prepare tasty items. However, even for professional chefs, there’s a lot to be learned from the rise of minimalism. As Eater noted, more focused menus allow restaurants to cut down on expenses and concentrate on what they do best, earning more from each item.

Many chefs have found inspiration in the simplicity and warmth of Scandinavian dining. Vogue explained that the New Nordic cuisine spotlights comforting flavors like boneless short rib with fermented cherry sauce or salt- and ash-baked root vegetables. Paired with natural wines or single-origin coffee, these Northern dishes prove that amazing food doesn’t have to be hard.